How Fix Cargo Van That Won’t Start After Fuel Filter Change

While changing a fuel filter is a task most people can complete without professional help, there are mistakes which are easily made. Any one of those mistakes may stop your cargo van from starting.

This is not often an expensive problem or one you can’t solve yourself. It is however one which needs to be addressed as soon as possible and you may not need professional assistance.

If your cargo van won’t start after a fuel filter change, here are the things to look at:

  1. Fuse Box – Check fuel pump fuse
  2. Battery – Check connected
  3. Fuel Pump – Turn the ignition listen if pump makes a sound
  4. Prime the System – Turn the ignition for a few seconds
  5. Fuel leaks – Check for fuel leaks
  6. Fuel Cutoff Switch – Check not tripped
  7. Fuel Filter – Check filter direction

You can get full details on how to correctly change your fuel filter here. If you check the actions you took against this list, you may save time searching for the problem.


Fuel Pump Fuse

Removing the fuse for the fuel pump will greatly reduce the pressure in the fuel system, as the fuel pump cannot work without it.

The fuel injectors will ordinarily be under a great deal of pressure, and so any pressure has to be reduced prior to disconnecting one of the hoses in the fuel system.

You should have removed the fuse for the fuel pump prior to replacing the filter.

If the fuse has not been replaced or is faulty, the fuel system will not be getting fuel.

Check the fuse for damage. If the metal strip in the fuse is broken, it will need to be changed. When inserting the replacement fuse, ensure it has the same amperage as the old one.



Before changing the fuel filter, you should have disconnected at least the negative cable from the battery.

If you did not disconnect the negative cable, the battery may have discharged while you were replacing the fuel filter. If you did disconnect it and reconnect it, ensure you reconnected it properly so the battery can function effectively.

The main reason, for disconnecting the battery when performing a fuel filter change, is for safety.

There will certainly be fuel leak when you disconnect the filter, and you do not want a spark to ignite it. Though it is recommended to at least disconnect the negative, many people disconnect both the positive and the negative.

This is a safety precaution which should be taken anytime a fuel spillage is anticipated.


Fuel Pump

If you have replaced the fuse for the fuel pump, it should be working.

If you turn on the ignition, you should be able to hear it purr; if not, the pump could be the problem and needs to be changed.

Unfortunately this is usually a task for a professional, but before they start, ensure they check the power supply to the pump as that could be the problem. A faulty wire could be less expensive to rectify than replacing a perfectly good pump.


Prime the System

Although the pump may be working, it may still need a few seconds to prime the system enough to work effectively. You will have lost fuel when you disconnected the fuel filter and that would have lost the pressure in the system.

To prime the fuel system, do the following steps:

1,  Turn the ignition to the accessory position for 5 seconds.

2, Repeat this 3 times.

3, Then on the 4th turn crank the engine.

This should have given the pump sufficient time to fully pressurize the system.


Fuel Leaks

When you change a fuel filter, it is usual for fuel to leak, hence the need for a drip pan strategically positioned. To avoid excessive fuel leakage, it is recommended that you only have less than a quarter tank of fuel when you change the filter.

As a safety precaution, you should wear goggles when disconnecting the hoses from the fuel filter as splashing could occur. Leaks should no longer occur though, once you have replaced and connected the new fuel filter.

Check under the van for any fuel leaks. Especially check around the filter in case the fittings are loose. Fuel lines may also have been damaged during the filter replacement, so they need to be checked.

Whenever checking for fuel leaks, it is always best to check under the hood for leaks as well as just under the van.


Fuel Cutoff Switch

The fuel cutoff switch is designed to cut off the fuel pump in case of an accident. Turning it off prior to changing a fuel filter is another safety measure. Doing so will further assist in avoiding excessive fuel spillage by further reducing the pressure in the system.

This is a switch located inside a panel on the passenger’s door. If you switched it off before making the replacement, you should have remembered to turn it back on. Even if you did remember though, it can easily trip by any knock to the passenger’s door.

It is rare for the switch to trigger on its own but is worth checking as it only takes a minute.


Fuel Filter Direction

The new fuel filter you fitted would have been marked with the direction of flow.

If you fitted the filter in the wrong direction it will be inhibiting the effective fuel flow and needs to be reversed.

Initially, the pump should make up for any shortage of fuel from the filter. This excessive work though will lead to the pump receiving extra wear and needing to be replaced sooner than otherwise necessary.



As you can see, although a fuel filter is relatively easy to change on your own, there are many things to remember. Even the professionals forget one or other of them from time to time.

It is therefore always best to make checklists before you start the task. One checklist should be for actions before changing the filter, and a second for actions to take after completion of the filter change.


Fuel System

The fuel filter is an important part of the fuel system as it prohibits contaminants going to the engine, which could damage the engine with more costly consequences.

It should therefore be changed at least every 2 years or 30,000 miles.

The fuel filter is not the only important part of the fuel system though. The system obviously needs fuel but also needs a pump which requires power to operate. The pump helps to maintain the system with pressure to allow for smooth operating of the engine.

Whilst you may have only changed the fuel filter, in doing so, you may have inadvertently caused a malfunction in one of the other aspects of the system.

It is therefore, necessary to check all aspects of the system when your van won’t start after a fuel filter change.



The most important thing when working on your cargo van is to be aware of any safety precautions. These safety precautions may prevent more serious damage to your van and more importantly, protect you from personal harm.

In the case of a fuel filter change, those safety precautions are:

  • Contain any leaking fuel,
  • Avoid fuel igniting and
  • Reduce the pressure in the fuel system.
  • Plus of course you should wear gloves and goggles.

Whilst removing a fuel filter may be messy, it is easy to do. The most important part though, is correctly fitting the new one. All fuel connections must be checked and secured properly.

The fuel filter should be fitted in the right direction otherwise you could face more expense in having to prematurely replace the fuel pump.

In most instances of a van not starting after a fuel filter change, it is due to forgetting one of the required actions. These are usually re-connecting the battery, replacing the fuse, or forgetting to reset the fuel cutoff switch.

It is always worth double-checking the filter has been placed in the right direction though. If incorrect the van may still start and seem to drive OK, however it will be causing unnecessary wear on the fuel pump for which you will pay a price for later.

Having successfully completed the fuel filter change on your cargo van, it should run smoother than before. If it doesn’t you should take the van to a professional for checking. Sometimes a problem you may have concluded was a fuel filter problem could be more serious.

If your van was acting sluggish or misfiring, it may not have been due to dirty fuel. Instead it may have been due to the starting stages of something far more expensive to solve. Early action nearly always saves money.